Department or Program



Bates College currently defines learning differences as reading, writing, and math learning disorders; Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder; psychoemotional disorders; auditory, visual and sensory motor disorders; and temporary medical issues such as concussions. In order to explore peer and self-perceptions of learning differences at Bates, two studies were conducted. Study 1 consisted of two focus groups with students who have diagnosed learning differences and three focus groups with students who do not have diagnosed learning differences to gain an understanding of perceived stigma on campus, and whether some learning differences and accommodations are more legitimized than others. Analysis of the data using Grounded Theory Method resulted in three broad categories for participants with learning differences (language, peer and self-perceptions, and experiences with learning differences) and three broad categories for participants without learning differences (basic knowledge, experiences with learning differences, and peer perceptions). Study 2 aimed to systematically measure perceptions of learning differences by utilizing two Go/No-Go Association Tasks (GNATs) to test implicit bias. The affective GNAT tested whether participants associated learning differences with general positive words more than with general negative words or vice versa, while the evaluative GNAT followed the same format but used positive and negative terms related to competency. Participants showed a greater association between learning differences and negative terms than positive terms for both the evaluative GNAT, t(109) = -2.77, p = .007, and the affective GNAT, t(109) = -6.18, p < .001, demonstrating negative implicit bias against learning differences.

Level of Access

Open Access

First Advisor

Fraser-Thill, Rebecca

Date of Graduation

Spring 5-2015

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Number of Pages


Components of Thesis

1 docx file

Open Access

Available to all.